THE UGANDAN WHISKY EXPERIENCE.
A.Kasese:District north of Lake George in the Western region of Uganda.
B.Kasese:crude 90% local waragi (Gin) distilled and named after the district.
Flora and I walked down to Kasenyi Safari Camp a few minutes away from Kasenyi Wild Game lodge, we figured we'd grab a beer or two and check the place out.
We arrived,got out of the car and got approached by a lively lady,I think her name is Tracy,she greeted us with the most exaggerated accent I've heard in a long time,seeing as we are fellow locals,very unnecessary,I guess she couldn't tell in the pitch black.
She ushered us in,insisting on knowing where we were coming from,I walked on and let Flora deal with that.Walking in,you've got an extensive dining area and a weirdly shaped bar to the right,a souvenirs corner and a swing.Very well lit and inviting,it's nice.
We were approached by the manager,I don't remember his name,I'm not good with names,faces though,yes.He asked what he could help us with to which we replied we wanted some cold beers,
He pointed us to the bar where Mesach the Bar tender beckoned us with a smile.
Where we were seated,the bar spreads out in a weird shape that makes it difficult for Mesach to serve drinks,he literally has to lean his whole body forward to do his trade,very comical to see.
The manager is very chatty,while we had our beers,he asked us different questions about ourselves and what not,I didn't mind being questioned,I was in a chatty mood myself,thing is,he didn't give us a single moment to ourselves,it was a bit much I must say, almost interrogative to a degree.
At some point I noticed 4 wooden casks by the bar,upon further inquiry,it turns out Kasenyi Safari distilles its own whisky from the local gin Kasese.my curiosity peaked,I had to know what all that was about.
Kasese Waragi is made from ripened Matooke(green bananas).Once obtained,it is placed in a boat like structure where it is stomped into mushy oblivion. The state of the feet doing the squashing is often questionable,more often or not it's best not to dwell! It is then placed into drums,where the distillation process is carried out.A week or so later,,Kasese is born.Interacting with some individuals on Facebook,this was the more detailed description of how Kasese is made.
Rukundo Hillary gave me this detailed description on the Kasese process;
"You get bananas (brewers ie embiire, kisubi, musa, kabaragar) put them under the sun for 2-3 days in order to reduce sap or masanda in luganda and amakanca in runyankore rukiga. A prepared pit (entabo) of approximately 4 feet is is prepared in advance. Burn many dry banana leaves in the pit such that it absorbs and stores enough heat. Get green banana leaves, place them in the hole making sure they form a uniform cover of about 2 inches. Then place as many dry leaves on top of green leaves. After this, put bananas begining with muda, kisubi kabaragara and embiire last. Then cover with dry banana leaves and green ones after. Put soil on top making sure it does not reach on the bananas (okuhanika). Wait for 3-4 days and check ( okuteera itaka). Reduce the soil in order to allow the accumulated heat to reduce not to affect the bananas (okufuba). This also allows for complete ripening. Wait for more 2-3days before you remove them. After this time, the matooke is ripe and now u can put them in a wooden trough (obwaato) after peeling (okutondora). Mix them with mature spear grass cut into small but uniform sizes. For quality purposes, add 20ltrs of water and begin squeezing with your feet.(okunyuuka). Squeeze until a clear form appear lest u will spoil (okuritisa). Make sure to collect the first concentrated juice (omuuti) and then add water. The amount of water depends on the number of jerrycans got from the concentrated juice (omuuti). Then u will get omujojoro. After this process, get a wooden trough that is clean, place it in a well dug trench like pit, put the omuti and omujojoro. And a good amount of roasted sorghum so as to aid fermentation. Usually it takes 2-3 days. But in btn u can test to ascertain the quality of the brew (okuteera ekishekye). When it's ready u can tell by the strong test developed. Then u may get your Tonto. Keep it in containers that are well covered for another three days. Put it a drum fitted with the distillers pipe. Heat the drum until temperature is about 100°c. Here u are ready to get your kasese also known as embandure."
Moby Weng Bagzi on Facebook adds that; "Kaseese could come from any fermented sugar, from tonto (fermented banana sugar), to mollases (fermenting sugar cane sugar) etc etc ....even cassava sugar."
I had this tenant once give me some,it is not for the faint hearted,very gross,powerful and pungent stuff,you do not want to be locked in a space with someone perspiring after having consumed it.
Some people,particularly in rural areas where it is King have died from over consumption!I also heard once,Kasese is a great substitute for car fuel!
What the guys here do is pour said Kasese in white oak barrels imported from the states,(they claim the process can only be done in these type of barrels.) keep it for a year,where it slowly turns color from a clear liquid to whiskey.
I had to taste it,the manager offered us a shot of the stuff from the oldest barrel,
It was almost as dark as the Red Label whiskey in view,Mesach said it needed a little more time to be complete.It tasted just like whisky,you can still taste the kasese bit but barely,in a while it will be completely transformed!
Color me impressed,I asked why they weren't mass producing it,I'm sure I got an answer but the Whiskey had kicked in burning me up in that pleasant and invasive way liquor does.
Meanwhile Tracy had since switched back to her normal Ugandan accent,occasionally busting out the occasional local dialect,it must be exhausting being that pretentious on a daily!
The manager had gone off to charge a torch or something,we thought he had finally sauntered off for good but he came right back,This time with a story on why the bar was named the Buffalo Corner.
Apparently,years ago,a tourist was kidnapped, killed and his body dumped at a spot along one of the paths.His sons dissatisfied with the report sent to them,came to investigate what had happened to their father. They were shown the spot where his body was found,finding a herd of Buffalo in the spot,it then came to be known as Buffalo corner,
The bar's name is meant to honor his memory.That was a nice thing to do.
Finishing our beer,we said our goodbyes and thanked them for their service,as we left I remarked how strange the bar is,Mesach pointed out it's meant to be in the whole Lake Edward,Kazinga Channel,Lake George design.ohhh ok,still incredibly impractical though.
So if you're ever down Queen Elizabeth,try the Ugandan whisky thing,I think it's pretty neat,I also feel I should warn you,beers local beers are at 7,000ugx while a shot,one shot of whatever liquor you want is 15,000ugx ....let that sink in.